The GTU has to better represent the interests of its members

Dear Editor,

For those familiar with the workings of democracies, Guyana is fast becoming a poster child for Comedy Central as President David Granger continues to undermine his credibility and that of his Office, by upping the ante to take over the authority of our democratic institutions.  Why is the man voiding established governance systems for effective government operations?  Why has he gotten involved in negotiations between the Ministry of Education and the Guyana Teachers’ Union in the first place? Why is he not allowing government officials to do their work?  His actions and decisions in relation to the union’s efforts to extract improved salary and working conditions, have stripped the Ministry of its authority, and have been grossly counter-productive.

By hosting and participating in a meeting between Education Ministry officials and the GTU at State House recently, the President has demonstrated his willingness to continue trampling the authority of the Ministry. The earlier unilateral appointment of a chairman to the arbitration panel being set up to resolve the teachers’ issues was definitely not intended to win trust.  Granger’s attempt to portray himself as having the interests of teachers at heart here, is, in fact, accomplishing exactly the opposite because he is subverting the arbitration process which would have been able to independently and professionally evaluate the union’s case, and offer a much better compensation package than he could hope to deliver.  His proposals go nowhere to addressing teachers’ salaries’ issues.

One is curious regarding the motives of the GTU’s leaders given their experience with Granger’s willingness to undercut their every move to deliver a better compensation package for teachers.  He met with them since late last year to stave off strike action by appointing a Task Force.  He subsequently squashed the recommendations of the Task Force, implying incompetence on their part, and pushed the union back into already soured negotiations with Education Ministry officials clearly lacking independence, which led to strike action. The arbitration process which was promised if the strike was called off, was undermined by the Administration’s unilateral appointment of a chairman to the arbitration panel.  After going through all of these stages, the union had no basis to make the retrograde step of meeting with Granger, under any condition. 

It is also confounding that the union actually reversed publicly, versus during negotiations with Ministry officials, on its original proposals, which have been shown to have considerable merit in respect of addressing teachers’ financially distressed positions. This means that the union’s leaders clearly had no idea in the first place of what they were asking for, and one could conclude that their indication that they would accept 20% is a vested interest position where their comparatively higher salaries would make them better off than teachers on the lower end of the scale.  This is pathetic and speaks volumes about the competence of the leadership of the union.

The GTU rejected government’s earlier offer of close to $900 million.  They should not be holding discussions with Ministry officials or Granger on the matter because Granger’s about-face on the arbitration process should only be seen for what it is: an attempt to further deny teachers their due salary adjustments. Go to arbitration and get an independent, competent opinion on teachers’ proposals.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Bumbery

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